Hiking around Lake Atitlan ranges from the easiest of easygoing trails to full-on volcano trekking. Of the two hikes we took from our village of Jaibalito, by far my favorite is the 7+ mile hike from Jaibalito to San Marcos La Laguna.
This moderately difficult hike ranges from leisurely strolls through the sleepy village of Tzunana, to trekking up and over huge boulders, cliffside. In this post you'll find everything you need to know about hiking from Jaibalito to San Marcos on Lake Atitlan, along with beautiful colorful images of the hike before you take a single step.
We tracked this hike to be more than 7miles one way from Jaibalito to the village of San Marcos La Laguna. If you get tired, head to the docks in the village of Tzununa, and catch a water taxi, or "Lancha" the rest of the way for just a few bucks.
I'd call this hike moderately difficult, as you'll need to climb over some large boulders and trek up several steep uphill areas.
What to wear:
We hiked this trail in January, and we each wore light, short sleeved shirts and shorts or capri pants with sneakers or basic hiking shoes. The weather was sunny and hot. Do NOT wear flip flops or sandals for this hike.
What to bring:
- Water. I can't understate the importance of bringing PLENTY of water on this 7 mile trek, especially if you are hiking on a sunny day. Much of the trail is exposed in direct sun, and it gets hot.
- Snacks. We brought energy bars and nuts. By the time we reached San Marcos, we were famished.
- Sunscreen. As I said before, most of the trail is in full sun. If you burn easily, I recommend bringing a hat and applying strong sunscreen at least a 1/2 hour before you hike.
Where to start:
The main trail leads directly out of the center of Jaibalito. Ask any local and they will point you in the right direction.
What to Expect When Hiking from Jaibalito to San Marcos La Laguna:
Taking into consideration the variety of scenery, the amount of walking, the exotic foliage and free range chickens and stray dogs that follow along with you, this hike is BANANAS. In a good way. Every twist and turn of the trail gives you something new and beautiful to look at, or a new physical challenge to take on.
Avid climbers will probably chuckle at this, but coming from this small town person, I can honestly say that the hike from Jaibalito to San Marcos is the highlight of our trip to Guatemala. Start after a good breakfast, and finish up with Tacos in San Marcos. How could it possibly get any better?
Strolling through Tzununa on your way to San Marcos La Laguna
The highlights of our trip to Guatemala always have to do with the people who live there. Whether it's just watching them go about their business in their native mayan clothing, giving us a friendly "Buenas Dias," or wandering through the less-touristy villages, these moments stand out in my memory of this amazing trip.
Tzununa, a sleep little village without much of a tourist or expat population, is one of my favorite spots. We strolled only through the main street of the town which was, during the weekday, mostly deserted except for the occasional couple of Mayan women working or carrying supplies on the tops of their heads with ease.
Magic Encounter with El Perro
While making our way through this village on Lake Atitilan, we made a new companion with a stray dog that seemed to want to hike the rest of the way to San Marcos with us. She was shy, and wasn't interested in being pet or given any water. But she stayed with us from Tzununa for several miles, even stopping to wait for us if we were too far behind her. And just as suddenly as she had appeared at our side to escort us through the hills, she disappeared, and we didn't see her again for the length of our stay at Lake Atitlan.
Making Your Way Into San Marcos La Laguna, A Spiritual Mecca at Lake Atitlan
One of the wonderful things about San Marcos La Laguna are the pathways leading through the village. Artists have painted murals all along these pathways, and often times there are archways of beautiful vines and flowers overhead. It's pretty dreamy.
Tacos de pollo y Limonada con azucar, por favor!
As we made our way through town, hunger took over and trying to decide upon a restaurant is almost an impossible task, as everything looks amazing and with low blood sugar it's tough to make a decision. We finally decided upon Taco Fe, only because we couldn't stand another minute without food. When we chose it, it felt like we had settled on something. But as soon as our server approached us, we knew something special was going to happen.
Two young Mayan women were waiting on tables and cooking each meal from start to finish, including handmade fresh tortillas with every order. I ordered a plate of chicken tacos and a lemonade. Of all the amazing meals we had in Guatemala, this was the most memorable.
Strolling through San Marcos La Laguna
Take your time walking through San Marcos. There is a large expat community and plenty of people who speak English if you're not fluent in Spanish. I recommend learning a few phrases before your trip. The vendors can be aggressive, but a simple "Solo Mirando" will politely know you're "just looking."
One thing I wish I had done more of in Guatemala is shopping. We brought home a few things for family and friends, but not much for ourselves, and I regret that. I would have loved to have some clothing, blankets, shoes and art for myself. It's something I'll definitely make a priority the next time I visit Lake Atitlan.
As you make your way through town you'll not only find stores and street vendors, but also spas and silent yoga retreats. Take your time strolling and look at EVERYTHING. It's worth it. And you never know what will be around the next corner. It's probably something special.
Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve
It costs a few bucks to get in, and it's a great hike with a beautiful lookout where you can see the lake and three of the volcanoes. Climb over big boulders and under jungle trees, and jump from the swimming platform into the lake.
After hiking 7+ miles from Jaibalito and then another mile or two strolling the beautiful streets, pathways and trails of San Marcos La Laguna, you're going to be tired. At least we were. So we decided to take a water taxi back to Jaibalito. It was a good idea, and nice to just have a smooth boat ride back "home" to our AirB&B in Jaibalito instead of having to traverse the jungle and cliff-sides all the way back.
All in all, the hike, plus the food, plus the people and the villages along the way, this is my absolute favorite hike (so far) in Guatemala. Now get out there!
Want More Details About Traveling to Guatemala?
We stayed in this gorgeous country for two weeks, and traveled to the Isla de Flores, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlan, and Antigua. We've written detailed blog posts about each of these beautiful destinations and the best things to do while we were in Guatemala. Take a look at our "Beyond the PNW" blog posts to see our collection of Guatemala blog posts. You'll learn more about where to go, what to eat, where to hike, and how to enjoy Guatemala to the fullest during your trip.
Have You Been To San Marcos La Laguna?
We want to hear from you! Leave us your thoughts on traveling to this beautiful village in the comments below!